Archive for the ‘Tales from the Trash’ Category

FTHK is buzzing again.

PPC wins BASA Award for their work with us!

Last night, Ana and Ugli hit the BASA Awards in Jozi where 3 of our funders were up for awards for the contributions to FTHK. As a special treat, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company presented ‘Topthorn’ of their world famous War Horse production. (Read further to get an upclose and personal look at the horse puppets of Handspring)

Adrian Kohler, Topthorn... and is that... Craig Leo ?

In the world of arts management, it’s no secret that your funders are your backbone, but far too often they don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s no longer  about just printing a logo at the bottom of your flyer: it’s about celebrating the work of the people who support you.

This year, PPC, Distell and CitiVibe were all nominated for supporting FTHK, with PPC winning the BASA Award for Increasing Accessibility to the Arts.

Picture by Rob Murray

Ana of FTHK and Franci of PPC with the Loot!

Last year, PPC sponsored our Tell-Tale Signs Tour, which gave our Deaf trainees the opportunity to tour the country, performing Tales from the Trash and conduct clowning workshops to Deaf schools around the country.

 All our funders really are the wind beneath our wings..  Thanks to them (as well as Bette Midler) we can present to you:

Benchmarks in Cape Town!

Rob Murray docks his ship at the NAF, headed for Cape Town's Out The Box Festival

For only 3 shows, Benchmarks will be performing at this years Out The Box Festival, which we’ve heard is bigger and bolder than before. More than anything, we absolutely love playing for our home-crowd, our biggest supporters.  The piece is even set in Cape Town, and if that doesn’t pay homage we’re not sure what will.

Have you yet heard about it from the horse’s mouth?

If you’re in Cape Town and want to get a full package of visual and cutting edge theatre, book a tour with CoffeebeansRoutes who will be taking groups of people to the Handspring Puppet Company workshop, where you can get a close up view of the mechanics of the puppets, followed by a meet the artist drink, and in their words, then watch one “OTB’s top shows”, Benchmarks on Thursday the 8th of September.

We, as FTHK, are so grateful for all the support we receive, from our funder friends to and our loyal family members. You guys make this all possible.

Come see us, Benchmarks and a conspiracy of clowns’s Kardiavale at the festival.. and as per usual… book at Computicket!

Dates for FTHK’s Benchmarks at Hiddingh Campus

  • Thursday 8 September: 17:00 and 20:00
  • Friday 9 September: 11:00

Dates for a conspiracy of clowns’ Kardiavale at Hiddingh Campus

  • Monday 5 September: 18:00 and 21:30
  • Tuesday 6 September: 11:00
Visit FTHK online for anything else you might like to know.

FTH:K is cursed when it comes to weather. There’s a saying in the company: How do you know it’s FTH:K’s move-in day? It’s raining. It will be the day we have to pull our wooden set across the country and risk exposure to rain and warping, and then we the people packing the set into the trailer, will get wet. Time and time again. Heading to Washington D.C., we thought we had left our weather woes at the National Arts Festival, when could you believe it, we arrived in Washington where, far from wet misery, is experiencing it’s hottest weather in 10 years.

Outside of our climate adapting, it has been a great trip so far, rubbing shoulders with our Yankee counterparts. We’ve toured Gallaudet University, a University for the Deaf in D.C, and bonded with the good people of Quest Visual Theatre.

FTH:K was invited to perform at the opening ceremony of the World Friendship Volleyball Games which is currently being hosted by Gallaudet University. Random, I know.

What made it particularly cool was that, this audience of sporty people took to the snippet of Shortcuts so well. Even though there was a scary moment and where Christo hit the ground with his head instead of his feet (He’s alright now!)

Naturally, going to America, there was trepidation about what kind of food we might encounter (flashes of SuperSize Me) but even our resident Vegan, Jayne, has, despite her initial hesitations, enjoyed many great salads and been introduced to other Vegans. Tink says she has found the greatest beans known to mankind at the Red Hot & Blue.

Back in South Africa there’s the incredible BASA awards happening at the end of August, where three of our supporters are up for awards, in recognition of their support of FTH:K. The Citizen, up in Jozi, was instrumental in aiding our Listen With Your Eyes tour at the Market Theatre last year, as was Distell who has been a fabulous supporter since the beginning. Also, in that list was Pretoria Portland Cement (commonly known as PPC: useful trivia which might be the deciding point in your next General Knowledge Quiz), who sponsored our National Tour of Tales From the Trash last year.

How cool is it to have your sponsors get an award for doing the good work they do!?

We’ve had so many things change round this month, but one who has not even received a mention, was our blessed dinosaur; our photocopy machine, Beast. It was a quick and quiet funeral, and in a brief sermon held by Ma Ang and Ana, our photocopier was laid to rest. Beast was responsible for many an FTH:K programme, funding application and report but after several paper jams, botched copies, and failures to turn on, it was time to go. Beast has since been replaced by Beauty, but his hard work and loyalty, will not be forgotten.

In trying to take over the world, taking knocks is part of the game. So here’s to the uncomfortable weather and the dying office equipment, the FTH:K dream goes on!

More from D.C. to follow…


by Cristina Salvoldi- Photo by Wendy Birt

Benchmarks, not only the name of our new show, but the goalposts we keep moving.

Here’s where we’ve come so far:

 “ FTH:K is an independent and vibrant theatre company that has enriched the South African theatre landscape with its original and unique approach to visual theatre. Having pioneered itself as a groundbreaking South African theatre company which casts both hearing and Deaf actors, their work challenges and enriches both the artists and the audiences through a combination of visual and performing arts forms such as puppetry, masks and live performance. As trendsetters of this genre in South Africa, it is clearly evident that the current growth in visual theatre on the festival and mainstream circuit is influenced by FTH:K’s prolific style and their ability to continually raise the bar both on excellence and innovation.”
-Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival

Some of you, those loyal enough to have been at our AGM will remember Ugli Bob‘s rundown of the artistic journey which explained how we got to now and for those of you who weren’t there – We’re only telling you this twice.

Phase 1:

The company has its roots in what we call our Environmental Phase. Tanya and Rob started out as dance and drama teachers at Community Arts Project (CAP) where they started the  Professional Development Programme (PDP). Under this banner they combined African storytelling with mime and created the piece Touch Wood in 2003.

Wayyyy back

Full cast of Touch Wood- Photo by Steve Kretzmann

This was created in response to fires that blazed on Table Mountain for weeks.  This was followed  by Water Pockets and very crucially, Imbew’embi: The Bad Seed, which saw the Rob collaborate for the first time with Janni Younge, for the making of shadow puppets.  Water Pockets was the first production to be housed by a major theatre, and enjoyed a run at the Artscape Arena.

In 2005,  FTH:K was officially launched and with funding from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), was able to employ its staff on a full-time basis. Water Pockets toured the Western Cape and a crucial stylistic benchmark happened with the creation of  Leap of Faith for the Mental Health and Disability Conference. This was the companies first integrated piece, with hearing and Deaf performers. Scripts were thrown out, and the non-verbal style that would become the companies trademark, entrenched itself.

2005 was also the the year the company won the ACT Cultural Development Award, and the Western Cape Award for Disability in the Arts. 

Phase 2

Having developed stylistically, FTH:K entered into its second phase – Integrated Theatre: where the company did away with written scripts and made their work more accessible to the Deaf and hearing. 2006 saw the beginning of the Integrated Professional Development Programme (IPDP). Liezl de Kock and Lysander Barends joined the programme and became long-standing members. Liezl is still with the company while Lysander left after five long years.

Generating new forms of income:

At the time the NLDTF funding was coming to an end and the company turned to associated producing to generate income. Here they threw themselves in the deep-end of marketing to produce shows such as the Dogs Bollocks by Gaëtan Schmid and Birds’ Eye View. The company then won the ACT Most Successful Company Award.

At the end of 2006, the company created Gumbo which was a fully integrated Deaf and hearing clowning production.

Gumbo in Argentina

Benchmark: South America

2007 was the year of Gumbo. The show toured around the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Johannesburg as well as Frieburg, Berlin, and Munich in Germany and Argentina. During this year, FTH:K’s friendship circle grew enormously and left a strong impression on two particular Wits students, Simangele and Jayne. Both ladies would later move to Cape Town and become full-time employees of the company, Simangele in 2010 as Educational Co-ordinator and Jayne as a theatre-maker, performer and designer in 2009.

By 2008, Gumbo had it’s 100th performance at the Baxter Studio and as the company grew, it became more accepted as a visual theatre company rather than a company that was Deaf specific.

The tag line, “a conspiracy of clowns” became the name of the experimental wing of the company, and premiered Pictures of You, their debut piece in 2008. Pictures of You went on to be the sleeper hit of the National Arts Festival.

Phase 3

By 2009, FTH:K entered into its 3rd and current phase – Visual Theatre. Pictures of You, by the Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K ran at the Baxter and at the National Arts Festival where it was the top selling show of the festival.

"Mama I made it!"

Stylistically the company was moving away from sign language in their shows as they had done with Gumbo, which had its 124th performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sign language just seemed to make hearing audiences uncomfortable and left out.

In that same year, FTH:K produced their first Deaf only piece, Ek Roep vir Jou Vanaand created by Lysander and directed by Liezl. This piece toured both Deaf and hearing schools around the Western Cape.

At the end of 2009, QUACK! was born. This dark and edgy story premiered at the Baxter and brought on new collaborators, Jayne Batzofin, who then joined the company, as well as Jori Snell.

2010 was a bumpy year as the company spent much of its time on tour. The company ran three major productions, Pictures of You, QUACK! and the newest offering Womb Tide. The Deaf trainees, Marlon, Tomri and Christo along with Simangele Mabena, the companies new education co-ordinator, did a national tour of the country with their piece, Tales from the Trash.

In September the company left to conquer Johannesburg, running a season at the Market Theatre, playing both QUACK! and Womb Tide.

- Photo by Wendy Birt

The company  also won their first Fleur Du Cap, awarded to Rob “Ugli Bob” Murray for his lighting design

For 2011, the trainee piece Shortcuts is set to tour nationally. The Conspiracy of Clowns premiers their new piece Kardiàvale in May and a “Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K” piece, debuts Benchmarks at the National Arts Festival.

Benchmarks will be on the Main Programme of the festival, just another benchmark for FTH:K.

Rob’s Conclusion:

” 6 years old and we often have to pinch ourselves at the good fortune and success we have had.  Success that is moderate according to our ambitions, but immense in terms of the groundswell and recognition we have achieved not only for Deaf education, or the integration of the Deaf and the hearing, but of massive strides we have undertaken in ushering in and being part of the Visual Theatre wave sweeping across the country, as well as backing that up by innovative business and organisational development, marketing, and publicity.

Packing the massive trailer to head off to Oudtshoorn and the KKNK recently, Tink sighed and said to me wistfully: “You remember when we used to make theatre on string and bubble-gum?”, harking back to the days where a set was a bucket, or a few umbrellas, and fitted into the boot of a car as did all the performers and tech crew, and not a trailer and mini-bus load.  It is true that our production values have increased (often to the headache of our managers and budgets), and our vocabulary has become more sophisticated, but one thing our work has always been is very rich.  Because it has been made on and by the bodies, hearts, and imaginations of a particularly awesome group of people.  Misfits, clowns, fools the lot of us.  But rich and strong and passionate.  And this will make all the difference.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may not be the biggest company in the world, or the country, and not enough people know about us yet, but the people you see before you tonight, represent perhaps one of the hardest working companies.  I salute you all, as well as our ardent supporters, and extended family, and promise the best is yet to come.”

In 2007, supported by the CWCI Fund (now folded), we embarked on a national tour with our performance of GUMBO.  It was one of the most important activities in our FTH:K history, as it started us on a journey that I’m not sure any of us were quite expecting.  It also brought us together as a group and acted as a HUGE learning curve as to the demands not only of touring with performances but also with a Deaf and hearing team.  Lots was shared and experienced on this tour (much of which we cannot post on this blog!!), but the biggest thing we came away with was that we needed to make small, easy-to-tour works for another national tour in the future.

This year we started creating such a work.  With the all-Deaf team of Tomri, Christo and Marlon, directors Rob, Jayne and Liezl began working on a story that they had created.  One of the first rehearsals got the performers to go off and come back with elements of their own stories to be used in the work, which they duly did.  The time came for them to present their stories to the directing team and it soon became clear that Christo’s story rocked!! Far more than the one devised by the directing team! So, out with the old and in with the new, and lo, Tales From The Trash emerged.

Overseen by our Education Coordinator, Sma Mabena, the team is booked on a return tour to KZN, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape (revisiting many of the places GUMBO toured in 2007) throughout the year.  In fact, they recently returned from the first leg of The Trash Tour: KZN.  Check out what Sma had to say about the experience as well as the photos to prove it:

“On a chilly Sunday morning in May, 4 sojourners were about to embark on a journey of epic proportions to the hilly lands of KZN! Suitcases packed, sets and costumes ready, we were about to go and tour our Deaf performance of Tales from the Trash. As an aside, why did we tout that BIG red suitcase for 6 items of clothing (Tanya…?) Flying into the new King Shaka Airport was lost on us, the guys were buzzing with excitement and wanted to get on the road…oh did I mention, that we would be driving between Port Shepstone, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg in record time? Can someone say ROAD TRIP!? After a little glitch at the Airport (thank Tanya and Darren for saving the novices…) we were off cruising on the N2 awaiting our destiny…

Port Shepstone – what can I say, other than…the weather…sigh*…was wonderful. After a night of “find Christo’s phone” (which I luckily slept through) and a morning of “find the welcome to Port Shepstone sign” (which I had to drive around and DIDN’T find!), we entered into St Martin De Porres School armed with suitcase full of dreams that we were about to unleash on the unsuspecting learners. Fast forward 3 hours later and we had learners mesmerized and itching to join our travelling troupe – that’s how amazing we were! From the moment Marlon stepped onto the stage and newspaper went flying across the floor to when Christo, Tomri and Marlon ended their performance…it was magic. So much so, the learners couldn’t stop chatting to us and asking us about the show and workshops that we almost stayed in PS…but alas, our troupe had three more days of spreading our Visual Theatre magic across KZN…and off into the sunset (literally) we drove to Durban…

We arrived at VN Naik to be greeted warmly by the Principal, staff and learners from the school. After the biggest dinner I’ve ever seen for 4 people (the guys cleaned out that dinner in a flash) we spent a while (actually, it was a few hours) chatting with the learners in the hostels and once again we were pumped to perform and work with the learners. Let me tell you something, the VN Naik learners were eager beavers all decked out in their drama gear and ready to roll! The talent from those learners was AMA-ZING! From the Zip Zap Boing game (a popular game) to learners doing fantastic things with their bodies in our mime workshop, we had a super rocking time! Time certainly did fly because we were having LOADS of fun! Soon after, we were on the road again about to perform at the KZN Schools Festival…3 Deaf Performers. 200 hearing learners. One incredible show! Those kids were engaged and truly listened with their eyes…and boy, were those eyes wide with wonder!

We were welcomed at Fulton School with open arms and we were in for a great surprise. During our workshops, we saw a great display of girl power because a majority of our scenes in the workshops were lead by girls. Not to discredit the boys but it was so great to see the girls coming out of their shells and showing off their creativity and talent for all to see. Now, that was Ayoba! The talent, commitment and passion there really blew us away. Even the teachers were blown away with the potential of the learners…And the fact that the school had a lunch in our honour (not really, but we felt really important then).

On the same vein of girl power, St John’s DSG (our last school) had plenty of that! I wont say much about the performance and workshop, I’ll just give you a snippet of what the girls thought about it

[The] series of fun, creative and sometimes very challenging tasks made us realise that you not only hear with your ears but you also hear with your eyes! This was an amazing experience which we were incredibly privileged to have. We feel truly grateful for all that we have learnt and we hope that From the Hip: Khulumakahle will continue to inspire both the hearing and non-hearing with their brilliant work. (Thanks Paula and Kirsty!)

Did I not mention that our travelling troupe was magic? I didn’t? Well, consider it said (again)! I wish I could say we’re now resting on our laurels after such a tour but far from it because this travelling troupe is getting ready to unleash its magic on Limpopo and Johannesburg in July!” – Sma Mabena

Cast shot - long with birds Developed from an original story by Christopher Beukes

Devised and performed by Marlon Snyders, Tomri Steyn and Christopher Beukes

Directed by Rob Murray, Emilie Starke and Liezl de Kock

Designed by Emilie Starke

On a rubbish heap filled with the discards of society, three tramps converge looking for food and a means of survival by any means. Initially suspicious of each other, and competing for scraps of food and comfort, the three are drawn together by their common situation and a grudging camaraderie is formed.

When one tramp discovers a story book in the pile of rubbish, he is immediately drawn in by the story he reads. However, the other two are excluded from his world due to their illiteracy, so he endeavours to include them in the power and energy of the narrative and starts enacting it, drawing them closer together.

The three tramps explode the story on stage in a display of physical and visual performance, where the trash they live in is used to bring the story to life, and in this way build to a more satisfying life where culture, and narratives, have the potential to sustain life, and develop fragile bonds of friendship and togetherness. The story itself is an epic African yarn of coming of age, as a displaced boy grows up to become a man in a tribe that isn’t his, and is ultimately forced to deal with the very real issue of identity and family. At turns both tragic and highly comic, the play veers along a madcap path, and in doing so bonds the tramps like never before. From the depths of the rubbish, and the wasteland of their lives, they are able to eke out a sustenance and a dignity that will change their lives for the better.

Created specifically for the demands of touring and being able to play in any space – be it theatre, school hall, or even outside – Tales From the Trash sees the development of FTH:K’s groundbreaking IPDP (Integrated Professional Development Programme) project. The experienced Marlon Snyders is joined onstage by new FTH:K trainees, Christopher Beukes and Tomri Steyn, in a casting that crackles with energy and vigour. For the first time in FTH:K touring, an all-Deaf cast presents a story for Deaf and hearing audiences, showcasing developed performance and theatre making skills.

Running time of the show is 60 minutes, and in 2010 the cast and crew will take the work to KZN, Gauteng, Limpopo, and the Western Cape provinces.